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Saskia R. Popescu, PhD, MA, MPH

Academic Title:

Assistant Professor

Primary Appointment:

Epidemiology & Public Health

Education and Training

  • George Mason University, Schar School of Policy and Government, PhD, Biodefense, 2015-2019
    Dissertation: “How Cost Containment Undermines Disease Containment: Political and Economic Obstacles to Investing in Infection Prevention and Control”
  • University of Arizona, College of Social & Behavioral Sciences School of Government & Public Policy, MA, International Security and Policy, 2012-2013
    Thesis: Roadblocks for Non-state Actors in the Development of Biological Weapons
  • University of Arizona, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, MPH, Infectious Disease Epidemiology, 2009-2011
    Thesis: America’s Soft Underbelly- Food Safety and Biological Terrorism
  • University of Arizona, BA, Classics, Minor: Public Health, 2005-2008                                                                      


Dr. Popescu is an internationally recognized and experienced infectious disease epidemiologist and global health security expert with a strong background in enhancing healthcare biopreparedness, outbreak response, biosecurity, infection prevention and healthcare epidemiology, biothreat analysis, and pandemic preparedness/response. Skilled communicator directing progress through policy development, project management/team leadership, and providing pragmatic and real-world insight from experiences in leading outbreak field response, biosurveillance initiatives, and healthcare biopreparedness programs.

She works at the intersection of science and policy to build capacity and support implementation of policies and collaboration across key stakeholders. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she has engaged in science communication across media sources, including CNN, SkyNews, BBC, the Trevor Noah Show, This Podcast Will Kill You, NPR, Nature, Science, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, etc.

Research/Clinical Keywords

Global health security, biosecurity, pandemic preparedness, infection prevention, hospital biopreparedness, infectious disease epidemiology, global health policy, infection prevention and control, disease surveillance

Highlighted Publications

Popescu S, Myers N. Interdisciplinary Information for Infectious Disease Response: Exercising for Improved Medical/Public Health Communication and Collaboration. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2021 Oct;15(5):546-550. doi: 10.1017/dmp.2020.228. Epub 2020 Sep 8. PMID: 32895074.

McCullough, J. Mac PhD, MPH; Fowle, Nicole LPN; Sylvester, Tammy MSN, RN; Kretschmer, Melissa MA; Ayala, Aurimar MPH; Popescu, Saskia MPH, MA, CIC; Weiss, Jolie PhD; England, Bob MD, MPH. Cost Analysis of 3 Concurrent Public Health Response Events: Financial Impact of Measles Outbreak, Super Bowl Surveillance, and Ebola Surveillance in Maricopa County. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice 25(4):p 357-365, July/August 2019. | DOI: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000818

Escandón K, Rasmussen AL, Bogoch II, Murray EJ, Escandón K, Popescu SV, Kindrachuk J. COVID-19 false dichotomies and a comprehensive review of the evidence regarding public health, COVID-19 symptomatology, SARS-CoV-2 transmission, mask wearing, and reinfection. BMC Infect Dis. 2021 Jul 27;21(1):710. doi: 10.1186/s12879-021-06357-PMID: 34315427; PMCID: PMC8314268.

Popescu SV, Leach R. Building Sustainable Infection Prevention in the Era of COVID-19. Health Secur. 2023 Jun 8. doi: 10.1089/hs.2023.0021. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37289770.

Watts A, Au NH, Thomas-Bachli A, Forsyth J, Mayah O, Popescu S, Bogoch II. Potential for inter-state spread of Covid-19 from Arizona, USA: analysis of mobile device location and commercial flight data. J Travel Med. 2020 Dec 23;27(8):taaa136. doi: 10.1093/jtm/taaa136. PMID: 32822473; PMCID: PMC7499632.

Moossavi, Fehr, Popescu, et al. Prevention of COVID-19: Preventive Strategies for General Population, Healthcare Setting, and Various Professions. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. 2021 ;1318:575-604. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-63761-3_32.

Awards and Affiliations

  • Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Fellowship, Center for Health Security, John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (2017)
  • Fellow, Infection Prevention and Control, APIC 2023
  • 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award, Schar School Alumni Chapter (2022)
  • Infection Prevention APIC Member Spotlight (2022)
  • 50 Experts to Trust in a Pandemic (2021) Medium
  • COVID-19 Coalition, ContagionLive (2021-2022)
  • Presidential Scholar, George Mason University (2015-2019)
  • George Mason Global Health Security Ambassador for the 5th Annual Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Ministerial meeting – Bali, Indonesia (2018).
  • Frontier Interdisciplinary eXperience (FIX), Homeland Security Career Development Grant in Food Protection and Defense (2010).
  • Department of Homeland Security Center for Domestic Preparedness Pandemic Preparedness (P3), Hospital Emergency Response, CBRNE HOT agents, and IED Awareness/Counter Terrorism certifications (2013)
  • United Nations Basic and Advanced Field Security Training, (2014)
  • FEMA NIMS 100, 700, 701, and 800 training (2011)
  • FAS-CAT/CARVER+Shock training from University of Minnesota College of Public Health Summer Institute (2010).
  • Certification in Infection Control & Epidemiology – APIC, December 2013 and re-certified in August 2023

In the News

  • Science Friday interviews: “Omicron May Be Less Severe. It’s Still A Big Healthcare Problem”, “Coronavirus: Sanitizing, According to Science”, “How To Prepare Your Healthcare System For A New Coronavirus”, etc.
  • “Biodefense in Context of IPC”, Greater Baltimore Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (GB APIC), (2022).
  • “Addressing Inaccurate and Misleading Information about Biological Threats through Scientific Collaboration and Communication”. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. (2022).
  • “Establishing and Deploying a Hospital Biopreparedness Program”, Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) National Conference (2021).
  • “Infection Prevention and Air Travel”, National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Workshop – Flying in the COVID-19 Ear, Science-based Risk Assessment and Mitigation Strategies on the Ground and in the Air. (2021).  
  • In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt, “Toolkit: How to Build a Bubble” (2020).
  • This Podcast Will Kill You “COVID-19 Chapter 12: Control, Take 2” (2020).

Professional Activity

Council On Strategic Risks, Senior Fellow, Janne E Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons 

Project management and lead on initiatives regarding open-source intelligence used for biological monitoring of outbreaks and verification of the Biological Weapons Convention compliance, congressional engagement, spillover and biosafety efforts during viral discovery, and laboratory biorisk efforts.

  • Focused efforts on intersection of public health and policy, community resilience during biological events, supporting efforts to address biosecurity vulnerabilities and strategy building.
  • Supporting initiatives on international biocooperation and addressing biological risks posed by natural, accidental, and manmade events.
  • Special focus on pandemics, global health security, biosecurity, biopreparedness, early warning and biosurveillance programs, ecological and biological safety, and response to infectious disease events and threats.
  • Signatory and working group on Non-governmental Organization (NGO) statement for the Biological Weapons Convention within the United Nations


George Mason University, Schar School of Policy and Government,                          Adjunct Professor (frmr Assistant Professor) – Biodefense graduate program,

  • Courses include healthcare resilience, global health security, biosecurity and pandemic response, public health, and epidemiology for policy making.
  • Doctoral dissertation committee support for three students.
  • Review and assessment of applicants for doctoral program qualifying exams.
  • Transitioned from Assistant Professor to Adjunct in August 2023. 

Netflix, Infection prevention epidemiologist consultant and team lead – managed global infection prevention efforts for Netflix.  

  • Oversaw the development, implementation, and led COVID-19 pandemic prevention and response efforts for Netflix, including productions and supporting international response. Coordinated complex, multi-country policies that included testing, vaccine acquisition and deployment, contact tracing and education, supply chain review, COVID-19 prevention strategies, and education across dozens of productions, including several $250+ million budgeted films.
  • Coordinated with senior leadership to forecast needs, ensure financial allocations and budgets were adjusted accordingly. Responsible for global health initiatives, such as risk assessments and threat analysis, preparedness and response plans, as well as coordination with Netflix Corporate, Production Security Intelligence, Policy, etc.
  • Designed and operationalized an assessment tool for measuring the burden of COVID-19 on productions, but also the intervention burden for response on a global scale.
  • Developed and initiated global response policies and protocols for infectious disease events, including mpox, dengue, measles, Ebola, yellow-fever, gastroenteritis, TB, etc. Responsible for evolving operational guidance for managing outbreaks on productions globally.
  • Responsible for review and analysis of health intervention cost metrics, forecasting, and economics, including collection of data and trends involving the impact of infectious diseases and health security threats that pose a risk and financial impact to continuity of operations.
  • Developed and operationalized contact tracing efforts in various countries and regions, requiring a variety of educational and data collection methods. Integrated risk communication, community engagement, and local public health requirements/mandates to ensure efficacy. Collaborated with local governments, public health agencies and non-governmental organizations, and Netflix global to facilitate pandemic response, vaccine clinics, and global health response within the framework of local regulatory requirements and workplace safety. 

World Health Organization, Infection Prevention Consultant

  • Supported the WHO Infection Prevention and Control Program through expert recommendation development and review of research proposals and funding strategies.
  • Coordinated with researchers and internal WHO efforts to support their R&D Blueprint initiative to further research in a range of COVID-19 related topics including transmission, personal protective equipment, disinfection, etc.

Links of Interest